By David Gee
I came, I saw, I cast. Literally.
Thousands of people recently descended upon the Orlando Convention Center for ICAST 2021, the world’s largest sportfishing trade show. It’s the premier showcase for the latest innovations in fishing gear, accessories and apparel, and helps to drive recreational fishing sales. And sales are up, way up, and that’s no fish story. More on that in a minute.
Of those several thousand people, it’s likely that not a whole lot of them went largemouth bass fishing at Disney World, as I did courtesy of the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF).
And fewer still probably wrapped up their ICAST experience with a wakesurf session on a Nautique G23, as I did, courtesy of Correct Craft CEO Bill Yeargin.
But let’s get back to fishing, which I did for the first time in 15 years. I am what the RBFF calls a lapsed angler. After reeling in some fun, and a few largemouth bass, at Bay Lake in front of the Disney Contemporary Resort hotel, with my congenial and enthusiastic guide Mark Chamlee, I have no doubt my next fishing excursion won’t have to wait for another 15 years. In fact, I am already composing my sales pitch to my wife on why I need new fishing gear.
Whether my wife will buy my pitch I don’t know, but it’s a fact plenty of people have been buying rods, reels and tackle. Sales in 2020 were up 55% over 2019 levels, with the average independent fishing retailer seeing YoY growth of 30%. It all adds up to a $9.7 billion industry.
According to the RBFF’s recent Special Report on Fishing, five million additional people went fishing in 2020 versus 2019, including an all-time record number of women.
At ICAST I had the chance to meet and talk with some of the female fishing influencers who are at least partially responsible for driving that growth. They are a passionate group that are demonstrating the virtues of fishing through vast amounts of social media content and engagement.
Speaking of engagement, here’s one more factoid for you. Frank Peterson, President and CEO of RBFF, who I interviewed at ICAST for an upcoming Boating Industry Insider podcast episode, said 69% of Americans emerged from the pandemic with a greater appreciation for the outdoors.
And that’s good for all of us.
Be sure and check out the Market Trends story in the next issue of Boating Industry. It’s on freshwater fishing, and I will have more interviews and fishing facts from Orlando.
And our cover story is Pandemic Plus One; what the state of the recreational boating industry looks like from the standpoint of manufacturers, dealers and marina owners, a little over a year after COVID hit.
Until then, happy boating. And fishing!